Life in ancient and medieval times – teeming with poverty, disease, cruelty and war – was hardly enviable. The concern of the Enlightenment was to alter this. Rather than a world of countless suffering serfs and a few princes living in luxury off their labor, a great humanitarian endeavor was undertaken to elevate suffering humanity and provide a good life for all. The value of this endeavor is undeniable.
But the cost has been enormous. In far too many ways, the Enlightenment agenda of open-minded scientific inquiry and the unfettered exercise of human reason has been overwhelmed by commercialism and turned into scientism and group-think.
The enormous encroachment of scientific methodology into all aspects of human life, coupled with the barren assumptions that all of creation can be explained by mechanics and all of human psychology can be explained by sexual and monetary greed, confers a dead, hollow universe, increasingly filled with violence and terror, in which a debased humanity finds no greater purpose than to go shopping.
The question is: Can we restore a genuine sense of meaning and purpose to our lives and culture without contradicting our hard-earned rationality, our scientific achievement, and our demand for social justice?